Hailing from Dunfermline, Scotland, and featuring a guitar tone redolent of bagpipes, Big Country burst on the scene in 1983 with a couple of hits, including “Fields of Fire” and the song today, “In a Big Country.”
Fronted by Stuart Adamson — who sadly took his own life in 2001 — Big Country consisted of members from a punk band, the Skids, which influenced both U2 and Green Day.
The band got lucky on its first album, The Crossing, with Steve Lillywhite producing. He was emerging as one of music’s top producers due to his work with U2 and Peter Gabriel. His effect on the song “In a Big Country” included restructuring it so the chorus occurs after the second verse, adding the iconic bagpipe guitar break, and having Adamson sing the bridge an octave higher.
The video for “In a Big Country” was popular on MTV, but the network ignored the video for the band’s second single, “Fields of Fire,” impeding the group’s efforts to break big in the US market. Even so, Beavis and Butthead were fans, marveling at the video’s ATVs, stating on their own show that they made it seem “like a James Bond movie.”
Adamson’s favorite lyrics in the song were:
I’m not expecting to grow flowers in a desert
But I can live and breathe
And see the sun in wintertime
His voice soars on the last syllable.
“In A Big Country” was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal, but lost out to the Police’s “Synchronicity.”
Big Country’s follow-up album, Steeltown, is a forgotten gem, with the title track and the final track — “Just a Shadow” — standouts.